Lapland of luxury

Jake Hobbs packs a tent into his VW Beetle to explore the tremendous scenery and drinking habits of Arctic Lapland.

I had imagined the Midnight Sun as a vaguely luminous globule hanging motionless in a dark sky. The reality. however, is quite different from this Kodacolour trickery: no darkness. dusk. dawn or photogenic sunset. Just day. blazing summer sun. and the instant madness of perpetual daylight. In this madness. gazing out over the Arctic Ocean. I fell in love with the planet.

Nordkapp. Europe’s most northerly point. can be reached by various routes. The tortuous road up the Norwegian coast can easily take three weeks. I was in a hurry. so chose instead the last. straight road up the west coast of Finland. which offers a more practical. ifslightly dull alternative. but includes the ferry crossing from Stockholm through the amazing Baltic archipelago. The early monotony of the scenery was deceptive. however. for as soon as I reached Lapland proper. a thousand miles to the north. the landscape seemed to change spectacularly every few kilometres: from craggy moorland to fields ofwild flowers. then slate cliffs. grassy promontories. unmeltcd ice bridges over mountain streams. vast bogs

and finally the ocean. with its beaches strewn with sea-urchin shells. and views of distant. ever-present fog-banks. giving the illusion ofice-floes. (In reality. the ice is hundreds of miles further north.)

I had reached the Arctic at Rovaniemi. tourist capital of l’innish Lapland. Here you can pay your personal respects to Santa. and have greetings mailed around the world to children whose names are inscribed in his diary. Despite the (‘hristmas commercialism. however. Rovaniemi's historical museum was a good introduction to the life and culture of the real people of Finland. the Sami. who mainly live far to the north around the joint border area of Norway . Sweden and l-‘inland.

The midnight sun over Giesvaer

Royaniemi is also as good a place as any to become acquainted with the Finns' two obsessions: cars and alcohol. A nightly ritual. enacted across the land between the hours of 7 and 10pm. comprises a painstaking re-creation of American (I'm/inf. My standard 1973 VW Beetle 1300 looked positively dowdy beside the souped-up dune buggies and Hollywood Boulevard cruise-mobiles. engaged on an endlessly repeated lkm circuit to nowhere.

The Finns' capacity for consuming alcohol is. by popular opinion. exceeded only by their capacity for talking about their capacity for consuming alcohol. Like the Scots. only more so. they appearreserved and placid by day. only to turn

The List 25 October 7 November NW 73